Key Post Highlights
Your analytics can tell you:
>Whether your content efforts are paying off.
> Which pages on your website need to be tweaked (or tossed).
> If you need to revisit your content strategy.
We’ve all heard it before: “Content is king.” As a strategist, I serve at the king’s pleasure because those who serve the king are rewarded abundantly (at least that’s the plan). But, just like with human kings, not all kings are good kings. It’s up to us to use the analytical part of our brains to evaluate them:
- Do they keep their promises?
- Do they act in kindness?
- Do they protect us?
- Are they fair with the royal coin?
In this way, content is under no less scrutiny than any other king.
In part 1 of this analytics series, we covered paid search and how to evaluate your paid programs. Now, it’s time to talk about organic search. Organic search has a specific method for measuring the performance of your content strategy, and this shows up in your analytics. So when you look at your data and all you see are numbers and labels — what should you be looking for?
Here are 6 questions your analytics can answer — and what you might learn if you take the time to listen to what they’re trying to tell you.
1. Is your strategy paying off?
One way you can prepare for the shift is to take time and learn what major changes are coming your way.
Nevermind, I’ll just tell you. Traffic sources and channels are the first places to start when looking at your organic search analytics. Knowing exactly where traffic to your site is coming from can help you uncover whether or not the effort you spend on your chosen channels is yielding any return. Creating, optimizing, and publishing some key site elements should draw organic traffic by default. These include your:
- Landing pages
- Web pages
- Blogs, articles, white papers, and case studies (published on web pages open to the public)
- Graphics and images
Traffic is okay, but the right traffic is prime for gold mining. That’s one of the reasons why a solid content strategy is so important. You want to see the efforts you put into each channel showing up in the amount of traffic and engaged visitors.
Remember that different channels are often for different goals — and you probably aren’t going to see the same kind of traffic across them. Social media posts driving traffic with links to your site for example will show up under “Social,” but social media isn’t just used to drive traffic to your website. Sometimes social media is used to interact with patients/consumers where they are and to create positive brand interactions.
TL;DR: Your analytics will tell you what is and isn’t working with your distribution and content strategy.
2. What should you keep doing (and what should you stop)?
You can leverage analytics to tell you what is working and what isn’t driving organic traffic. It takes between 90 and 180 days to measure the effectiveness of a piece of content.
When you shift content strategy, your former strategy could still be drawing larger amounts of organic traffic during the reporting period you are viewing. It’s important to meet new content where it is.
Don’t make the mistake of comparing the amount of traffic a piece of content that has had a year to accumulate versus the content that has only been live for 90 days. Focus on the quality of the content versus the quantity of traffic the content gets.
3. Does your content have what it takes to convert lurkers into lovers?
There are two types of users: New users and returning users. It’s perfectly normal to have more new users than returning users. In fact, you want to see new users. The key is to recruit new users into returning users over time. This is the most basic conversion any website can and should be doing.
Your content strategy should be audience-driven, so it doesn’t just draw in traffic, but the right traffic. How do you know you are drawing in the right traffic?
The data will tell you if you are meeting some general “success” metrics, like:
- The number of returning users is growing month over month
- Users are visiting two or more pages per visit
- Visit duration is more than 1.5 minutes for returning visitors, with the exception of the home page which should be less than a minute
- Traffic to the homepage moves to at least two subsequent pages and retains 40% or more of incoming traffic
Knowing the benchmarks for your industry can help you make some sense of what your analytics are telling you. Your dashboard can say that you have a conversion rate of 1.5%, but it’s often up to you to hold that up against your industry’s ruler. For healthcare for example, a good conversion rate is 3% or greater.
4. What should you keep, toss, or tweak?
Over the years, content can become irrelevant, inaccurate, or simply unuseful. There is also content that has been sitting on your site for a few years and just isn’t working.
Your analytics will tell you what content can be put out to pasture. This isn’t a failure — it just means that you’ve identified a place where your site can grow and evolve. It might also mean you have a chance to breathe new life into an old body of work, making it more relevant or optimized for search.
You might be worried about how deleting content affects SEO. Just be sure to set up a proper redirect and avoid those nasty 404s.
5. Do you have any major traffic bleeds?
By looking at user behavior you can see if any of your pages that drive a lot of organic traffic also have a high drop-off rate. This would be a webpage that has a significant amount of users landing on it through organic means … but then more than 60% of that traffic doesn’t visit at least one other page.
These pages are exactly the kind of pages you want to optimize and keep an eye on.
6. Do you need to revamp your content strategy?
There are many tools on the market that can help evaluate your content. If you aren’t already, I suggest signing up with Google Analytics 4 (GA4) to begin collecting data on user behavior that will help you make data-driven decisions about your digital strategy.
But, if you’re going to invest time into paying attention to your organic search analytics, you also have to be willing to invest in addressing the opportunities for growth that they highlight. You might not always love what your analytics dashboard is telling you, but don’t think of it as ways you are falling short. Think of it as a chance to revamp your content strategy (which you don’t have to do by yourself if you catch my drift).
By investing in content marketing and a strong content strategy, your website can drive more sustainable traffic. Once you optimize your content and publish it, it yields traffic in perpetuity. No shade to paid search, but it only works while you‘re doing it. By paying attention to your analytics — and then acting on things they’re telling you — your website can help you ensure its place on the throne.